How Israeli women turned Purim into a feminist holiday this year

Eilit Rozin posing as Rosie the Riveter. (Courtesy of Eilit Rozin)

Andrew Tobin

TEL AVIV (JTA) – Wonder Woman, Rosie the Riveter and a female Israeli fighter pilot walked into a bar.

They were just a few of the heroines out in Tel Aviv Saturday for the first night of Purim. With International Women’s Day falling a day before the holiday weekend this year, women all over Israel were feeling feministic.

Shir Yorkevitz and two other teachers wore Rosie the Riveter costumes to their middle school in Herzliya Wednesday. Yorkevitz, a 26-year-old history teacher said she wanted to send a feminist message to her students.

“It wasn’t just a cute costume to celebrate Purim, but was also a way to get the girls to talk about women’s rights,” she said. “It’s nice that it’s a really easy costume to make.”

Busy studying for her final exams in political science at Tel Aviv University, Eilit Rozin sent her mother into the city to get her a Wonder Woman costume. She said she was inspired by Israeli actress Gal Gadot’s portrayal of the character, noting that she was one of the few women to get her own Marvel Comics movie, “Wonder Woman,” which comes out this summer.

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“I really love superhero movies and TV shows. But there are barely any women superheroes. You see them as sidekicks or playing small parts. For me, it’s really important to see women actually fighting the bad guys,” she said.

Rozin said the costume choice felt particularly apt after she saw the video that was broadcast on TV Tuesday night of Rabbi Yigal Levinstein saying that army services “has driven our girls crazy. She said she and many other real-life Wonder Women she served in the army with had been miffed by the comments.

“It’s an odd conception, and people need to get over it,” she said. “I think they are.”

Some rabbis rushed to Levinstein’s defense, and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri called him “brave” for daring to speak out. But the overwhelming reaction in Israel was condemnation, including by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

The backlash to the comments in the media and on Facebook blended into International Women’s day and Purim coverage. Widely shared on Facebook was a story (Hebrew link) from Israeli daily Yedioth’s Aharanoth’s weekend magazine about two young girls who dressed up like their officer mothers for Purim.

“I’m really proud of my mother, and so I wanted to be like her, but her uniform was too big on me,” 9-year-old Liel Dahan is quoted saying of her mother, an officer in the military police. In a photograph accompanying the story, Liel is shown saluting beside her machine-gun toting matriarch.

Yorkevitz said at the middle school and high school where she works few students wore what could be considered feminist costumes this year — “unless you count Fiona from Shrek.”

“The girls just want something that makes their body look nice, and the boys don’t really dress up unless they are doing it with a girl,” she said. “[The female students] figure women have equal rights. They can wear pants and do whatever job they want, so they think the fight is already over.”

Rozin for one said she appreciates the sacrifices of the women who came before her. International Women’s Day, she bought her mother flowers.

“I told her she’s my role model because she’s really strong and really independent,” Rosin said. “She’s my favorite superhero.”

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